Senior Chemistry Major Receives Berea’s 2017-2018 Red Foley Memorial Music Award


Brenna MacMillan '18 performing

Brenna MacMillan ’18 performing with the Bluegrass Ensemble during their annual spring concert on April 21, 2018.
(Photo: Jonathan Kemp ’19)

Brenna MacMillan ’18, a senior Chemistry major from Winchester, Kentucky, received Berea College’s 2018 Red Foley Memorial Music Award. Following graduation, she plans to move to Nashville, Tennessee, to perform with her brother Theo MacMillan (2016 Red Foley recipient) and pursue her musical career.

This award, established in memory of Country Music Hall of Fame star Red Foley, is presented annually by Berea College to a talented Berea College student in recognition of his or her musical contributions to the social life of the campus community. The award assists the recipient in a professional music career, if he or she so desires, and promotes the kind of music associated with Red Foley’s career, such as folk, country, bluegrass, gospel and popular music.

Brenna MacMillan

Brenna MacMillan ’18
(Photo: Jay Buckner)

“Although a chemistry major, MacMillan has dedicated herself tirelessly to the music programs at Berea College,” one nominator wrote. “Her generosity of time has been as great as her enormous talent.  Apart from campus and college-related events, Brenna has used her musical talent for the benefit of the larger community. She also writes music that sends a message of hope and love, in spite of the devastating experiences of those whose story she tells.”

MacMillan performed on the radio broadcast of Red Barn LIVE in April 2017, opened for the band Roanoke during a folk concert sponsored by the Berea College Radio (WBER) and the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center in 2017, and was nominated, as a part of the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble, for the Best Bluegrass Band in the Lexington area at the Lexi Awards on Jan. 28, 2018.

From a young age, MacMillan had strong musical talent, beginning banjo lessons at only 10 years old.  While at Berea, she has found herself serving as both vocalist (lead singer) and instrumentalist (banjo) for the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble. During her three and a half years with the ensemble, she has appeared at numerous campus functions; performances throughout the Appalachian region; and internationally in China, Denmark and Ireland.

She collaborated with various other musicians in the Berea College Concert Choir and the Black Music Ensemble. MacMillan also shared her talents in a broader sense with the community by performing the National Anthem at several men’s and women’s home basketball games, playing at Berea Coffee & Tea for the Berea College Bookstore fundraiser and providing entertainment for the “Meal on the Quad” convocation.

The Red Foley Memorial Music Award was established in 1970 by Ely. E. Siman Jr., Foley’s long-time friend and manager, in Foley’s memory. Recent past winners include Julie Nelms ’17, Theo MacMillan ’16, Cory Shenk ’15, Sam Gleaves ’14 and Myra Morrison ’13.  View more information on the Red Foley Memorial Music Award see a full list of past winners here.

Categories: News, People, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Bluegrass Ensemble, Brenna MacMillan, Music Department, Red Foley Music award, Students

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College admits only academically promising students with limited financial resources, primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia, although students come from 40 states and 70 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally-recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly, earning money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.